First of all, let me state that I don’t think that Ron Paul is himself an anti-Semite; at least I don’t have reason to believe he is personally, much in the same way I doubt he’s racist against blacks or espouses any of the other offensive fringe views that have been expressed in his name. That being said, he has lent his name out to some troubling ideas pushed by fringe writers on both sides of the spectrum.

Ron Paul has a now well-documented history of negligence in monitoring the contents of newsletters written in his name, which for years published articles smearing blacks, Jews, and homosexuals. His explanation, that the newsletters were ghostwritten and as a congressman he didn’t have time to oversee the project, is certainly plausible, and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt there.

That being said, a person – even a busy congressman – still retains responsibility for what’s written in their name, so long as they continue to consent to the relationship with the publication. That’s why the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity is so disturbing.

The Ron Paul Institute – Fronting for Bigots

Even after the newsletter debacle, which was raised during his 2008 presidential bid, Ron Paul continues to associate himself with fringe anti-Israel writers and crypto anti-Semites. The Ron Paul Institute, under the guidance of now former congressman Ron Paul, promotes the kind of absolutist isolationism that’s earned Paul a distinct reputation within the Republican Party.

Not surprisingly, the content featured on the institute’s website is generally hostile towards Israel and at times indulges in bizarre tin foil hat-type commentary, alleging, for example, that Israel’s struggle against Hamas is actually part of a larger effort to ethnically cleanse the Gaza Strip and annex it. But then there’s the occasional instance of out and out anti-Semitism, like last month’s article by Diana Johnstone.

Johnstone, a far left writer and American expat living in France, is oddly compatible with the sort of fringe right views of the Ron Paul Institute. Writing in response to the murderous Islamic terror attacks in Europe, Johnstone actually directly compares Israel to ISIS and Al Qaeda, lamenting the “terrible symmetry” between the Jewish state and the new Caliphate, which she claims is “a sort of Israel for Muslims”. Let that sink in for a moment. Israel = ISIS and Al Qaeda. Yes, she actually makes this assertion.

The article runs through the usual kooky conspiracy theory type arguments against Israel, like the oft-repeated canards that Israel purposely targeted the USS Liberty and murders children in Gaza. But her assertion that the Jewish state is equivalent to Al Qaeda and ISIS is a whole new level of slander, one that steps over the line separating bizarre anti-Israel conspiracy theories from out and out anti-Semitism. And let there be no doubt about it; delegitimizing Jewish statehood by comparing it to psychotic fringe elements in the Muslim world is an attack on Jewish peoplehood per se.

The Wrong Crowd

Newsletters and institutes aside, Ron Paul also has a troubling history of associating with Jew-haters and Holocaust deniers. In 2013 he gave the keynote address at the Fatima Center, a radical breakaway from the Catholic Church whose leadership has been officially ostracized by the Vatican. The center’s founder, an open Holocaust denier, campaigns against an alleged Elders of Zion-style Jewish conspiracy to destroy Christianity. The event’s other speakers included a leader of the notoriously anti-Semitic John Birch Society and the self-described Fascist Roberto Fiore, founder of the neo-Fascist movement in Italy, who has blamed poverty in Europe and the undermining of traditional values on the Jews.

None of this is surprising, however, given the roots of Ron Paul’s movement. Paul’s brand of radical libertarianism, which seeks to unite elements of the far left and far right, is a fulfilment of the dream of his mentor, Murray Rothbard. An economist by training, Rothbard’s absolutist isolationism and hatred of mainstream politics led him to political alliances with other fringe elements. After associating with the leftist Students for a Democratic Society, Rothbard cultivated relationships with extremist Southern Populists like Pat Buchanan and former KKK head and outspoken anti-Semite David Duke. Rothbard’s isolationism brought him into the orbit of a number of leading Holocaust deniers like James Martin and Harry Elmer Barnes. Rothbard even became an active proponent of Barnes’ revisionist history of World War Two. Not surprisingly, Rothbard was an outspoken anti-Zionist and detractor of the State of Israel.

There isn’t evidence to indict Ron Paul as either a racist or an anti-Semite. But there is a telling pattern of associations and behavior that suggest a tolerance of bigotry and a willingness to appeal to such hatred in pursuit of his larger goals.